Published on August 16, 2019

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Photography by Katherine Lu

Attempt to count all the secret spots to store stuff in Liz and Tim Elton’s Sydney, Australia, home and you’ll lose track. Fast. Everywhere you look there’s a clever place to tuck something away—long cabinets, low cabinets, open shelves, built-in cubbies. And every square inch of it is completely necessary. When the renovation of the 1900s cottage began, the couple was also preparing for another big project: twins. 

To make room for double the inhabitants, the Eltons enlisted Catherine Downie and Daniel North of architecture firm Downie North to turn their cramped, semi-detached home into a modern, open-concept space with an ultra-functional floor plan and plenty of natural light. To achieve all of this on the small corner lot, the pair looked at traditional Japanese townhouses, or machiya, for inspiration. “They beautifully balance the tenuous relationship between public and private spaces,” Downie says. 

In addition to reconfiguring the kitchen, living room, and dining area to create an easy flow from room to room, the architects incorporated smaller nooks and crannies into the design so everyone could have a spot to seek solitude (oh, and store their stuff!). Read on for four genius organization ideas to apply to your own space. 

Don’t Let the Staircase Go to Waste

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Photography by Katherine Lu

Downie and North optimized the floor plan by positioning the high-traffic areas (the kitchen and living room) next to the sun-drenched courtyard and moving the stairs, bathroom, and laundry to the periphery of the home. But they didn’t just stop once they reached the edges of the blueprint. They took the new layout one step further, using the empty space below the stairway for additional kitchen cabinetry. If it weren’t for the seams between the doors, you wouldn’t be able to tell there were pantry staples hiding behind there.

Go High and Low

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Photography by Katherine Lu

Volume is a crucial metric to consider when designing a small space like this one. By opting for a variety of cabinet sizes and heights, the designers were able to take advantage of the height of the new ceilings. Large bifold doors conceal the TV and entertainment system, while a low media cabinet provides easy access to everyday items, like toy bins and books. 

Rethink Traditional Floating Shelves

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Photography by Katherine Lu

Not everything is best kept behind closed doors. For Downie, open shelves are an “important part of the expression of the space.” In the kitchen, a small cutout tucked into the upper cabinetry is a spot to show off prized dishware. The oakwood joinery also gives the eye a break from all the white. 

Use Shelving to Create Privacy

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Photography by Katherine Lu

The loft office puts the fun in functional. Going back to their original inspiration, machiya houses, Downie and North created a mezzanine level (a space-savvy addition that came late in the renovation) that nails the balance between public and private. The waist-height wall acts as a barrier, display case, and epic vantage point to the floor below.

See more stories like this: 
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This Aussie Designer’s Home Is the Result of Not One But Two Renos
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